LAST week my friend Mishka and I, wistful about a popular sedative of the 1970s that neither of us even got the opportunity to resist the temptation to take, went to search for “Do they still make ’ludes” on the Internet. Before we could finish typing the words “do they” the search engine autofilled “still make quaaludes.”
Sadly, I’ve been advised that this is most likely an artificially inflated search result. But it occurred to me to see what else might be autofilled, as a sort of unscientific poll or cross-sectional sample of my fellow human beings’ furtive curiosity and desires. I typed in “Why am I” and got: so tired/always cold/so ugly? “Why does”: salt melt ice/my vagina itch/it snow? “Where is”: my refund/Sochi/Chuck Norris? “Why can’t”: we be friends/I own a Canadian/I cry? I felt fondly toward all depraved humanity.
According to the calendar, our long, dark winter is over. Yet those five months without light or exercise, hunching our shoulders in pain whenever we stepped outside, bingeing on Netflix, Jiffy Pop and booze, have left us all at the ends of our respective ropes. (Why does it snow?) Now, by the end of it, I find myself inappropriately cheered by glimpses of my fellow human beings’ despair.
E.g.: My friend Kevin urgently texted me from a stall of the men’s room at work to inform me that someone in there was evidently in dire emotional/gastrointestinal distress — I’m eliding a lot of detail here — ending with the intelligence, stage-whispered in all capitals: “... AND I THINK HE IS CRYING!” It filled me with a soaring joy.
This isn’t schadenfreude; it’s something more complicated for which, as far as I know, there isn’t a German compound, but if there were it’d be something like mitleidfreude, compassion-joy — compassion in the literal sense of “suffering with.” It is the happiness, or at least consolation, of knowing that Things Are Tough All Over, that everyone else is secretly as wretched as I am — all of us weeping and pooping, Googling ’ludes.
Laughing at the universal wretchedness of human existence - because what else are you going to do?